I first heard about the arrest of comedian and satirist Bassem Youssef on the opening sequence of ‘The Daily Show” last Monday. Jon Stewart lambasted President Mohamed Morsi for Egypt’s continuing investigation of Youssef — not for mocking the President but for defamation of his religion.
A diplomatic row ensued on Twitter when the U.S. Embassy to Cairo tweeted the link to the Daily Show clip, which earned condemnation from both the official Twitter accounts of the Egyptian president’s office and the Muslim Brotherhood. The Cairo embassy Twitter account has adopted an informal but strong voice and earned the reputation of being active in replying to citizens and journalists, engaging directly with critics, and was even described as going “rogue” in a few occasions. This time, they deleted their Twitter account after posting the controversial link, which in turn earned the ire of Washington. They restored it online but have deleted the controversial tweet (and seem to be deleting old controversial tweets as well).
Focusing only on the Cairo Embassy’s use of Twitter: I wonder what their social media guidelines are and what their goals are in using Twitter? I like that they are more open to engaging with their public, but when it comes to handling sensitive issues, it seems their Twitter account is working in isolation if not misaligned with their other communication channels. In their world, sharing opinion and maintaining diplomacy is like walking a tightrope. This is why having a clear goal is crucial: should engagement in Twitter come at the cost of diplomacy? I think the true test of how social they are is not just how open they are in their tweets, but if the way they communicate and engage with their public helps in resolving real-world conflicts.
Get the lowdown on this incident from these sites:
Egypt and U.S. Argue Over Jon Stewart, ‘America’s Bassem Youssef’
Jon Stewart sparks Twitter fight between U.S. Embassy and Egyptian president’s office
The U.S. Embassy to Egypt’s Oddly Informal Twitter Feed
U.S. Embassy in Cairo goes rogue on Twitter
U.S. Embassy Tweets Jon Stewart’s Egypt Monologue; Diplomatic Incident Ensues